Abyss Mysticism

"When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you."

Friedrich Nietzsche

Most vampiric powers affect either the vampire himself or the surrounding material world - mostly the perceptions and mental states of nearby human beings. Like necromancers and thaumaturges, vampires using Obtenebration reach outside the world into a different sort of space and bring back dark gifts with them. Obtenebration is more than mere shadow-play. The precise nature is a thing that the Lasombra have spilled more blood and ink over than any other topic, including the Great Diablerie. It is a window to the Abyss itself, the great and terrible unknown that lies at the center of all things.

The Abyss gnaws at the heart of the underworld and the doubt in every question never answered. It is present in the absence of light and lurks in every shadow. Ghosts rightfully fear its hunger, but they do not understand it. Demons call it Hell, and they only begin to comprehend. Intelligence exists in the Abyss. It does not posses self-awareness or even identity in any comprehensible sense. Fragments of knowledge and passion come together for a time, then break apart. The mind within the Abyss is in some ways more like a cmoputer capable of emotion as well as logic than like a sentient entity, a pool of resources executing instructions provided by some unknown force. No Lasombra knows where it comes from or its purpose or even the purpose of its strange denizens, but the clan's mystics know the Abyss is the ultimate source of their power. The Lasombra Antediluvian sometimes claimed that the Abyss was the state of all creation before an interfering God made light, and that as the perfect master of Obtenebration, the Antediluvian was the primordial essence on Earth. Whether it was right or not, study of the Abyss repays the diligent student.

The mystics of Clan Lasombra vainly pry into the dark places in search of secrets, answers, and perhaps more questions. For these driven souls, conventional Obtenebration is only the beginning. With rituals they unlock the hidden powers of shadow and summon the unnamed primordial horrors that lie beyond. Either from fear or distate, the Amici Noctis follow a policy of ignoring mystics until times of great crisis. Not all Lasombra share an interest in the occult as such. In fact, many would prefer not to squander their nights studying occult lore at all, except that it's clearly necessary to make the best use of Obtenebration.

Rituals of Darkness

The following rituals do not adhere to the same rules as other forms of blood magic, in large part because they build on a Discipline not commonly regarded as a form of sorcery. Cainites may not learn Abyss rituals rated higher than their Obtenebration or Occult score (whichever is lower). Moreover, characters without the Occult specialty Abyss Mysticism must have a minimum of Occult 3 to learn these rituals and add one to the base difficulty of all castings. As the rituals collective represent a unique Discipline unto themselves, each costs 3 experience points per level to learn or a number of bonus points equal to the level of the ritual. Finally, most of these rituals have side effects associated with their use as befits the alien and malignant nature of the Abyss. Under no circumstances do Flaws obtained from side effects reward the vampire with bonus or experience points.

Level One Rituals

Pierce the Murk

It is a simple fact that understand flows from perception and darkness thwarts perception. Most individuals incorrectly assume no answers are to be found in the dark, but that is simply because they do not know how or where to look. This ritual resolves the first paradox, attuning a mystic's eyes to the primordial darkness even as they forsake light.

System: The mystic invokes the Obtenebration power Shadow Play and concentrates, focusing the manipulated shadows to gather into a sphere. She holds this intangible sphere in one hand and gazes into its depths, while her player rolls Perception + Occult (difficulty 8). Success means the vampire permanently gains the Merit Darksight, while a botch results in the mystic permanently gaining Darksight as a Flaw. A failure means the Cainite fails to comprehend the lesson and must try again another night.

Side Effect: When a vampire uses Darksight obtained from this ritual, her pupils appear to grow in an inky stain that envelopes iris and white in pure black. Those who botch this ritual obtained blackened eyes for the rest of their unlife along with their warped perceptions.

The Shadow of Hands that Serve

This ritual summons the smallest beings that dwell in the Abyss and grants them brief existence in the material world as servitors of the mystics who invoke them. Such entities are not demons or ghosts or true spirits, but rather something else that defies comprehension or classification. All that is certain is that they hate light, hunter for life, and bear a malign cognition that would shatter the sanity of any who truly understood it. Although the creatures summoned with this ritual are harmless, they make excellent spies and are so called the Eyes of Ahriman.

System: The vampire crushes and extinguishes a candle in his fist, suffering one level of aggravated damage and prompting an immediate check for Rötschrek (difficulty 5). If the vampire can maintain control, his player rolls Intelligence + Occult (difficulty 6). Botching this roll results in a further level of unsoakable aggravated damage. If successful, however, the vampire tightens his fist until blood drips from his fingers. When the blood lands, it shrieks in pani and births a momentary gateway to the Abyss. Out of this brief rift emerges a globe of shadow substance the size of a child's hand. The creature endures one night per success on the casting roll before returning to the Abyss. Until this time, it serves the vampire's spoken will with unquestioning if unimaginative fervor. It can crudely communicate with material beings in images and emotional impressions, but only while in physical contact.

A level-two version of this ritual exists, known as The Heart That Beats in Silence. This ritual follows the same rules and process, save that the summoned being is twice as large and possesses greater mastery of Obtenebration, allowing it to attack its caster's foes physically. A vampire may not summon more beings through castings of The Shadow of Hands That Serve and/or The Heart That Beats in Silence than his occult rating.

Side Effects: None

Level Two Rituals

Transubstantiation of Essence

Supplanting her accursed blood with the substance of the Abyss, a mystic may devour the shadow essence to accelerate her healing.

System: The mystic devotes a full turn to meditating; her player spends one Willpower point and rolls Stamina + Occult (difficulty 8). A botch inflicts one level of aggravated damage. For every success rolled, the vampire may spend one blood point to heal two levels of bashing or lethal damage. For the purpose of this unholy healing, the vampire may even surpass normal generational limits on blood expenditure. The Abyss takes its due, however. Whenever the vampire feeds, the Abyss consumes the blood until it has taken a total number of points equal to twice the number of health levels healed. No blood actually enters the vampire's system until the cost is paid in full. Moreover, this ritual cannot be used again until the Abyss receives its toll and never more than once per night.

Side Effect: The taint of the Abyss never fully leaves a vampire's blood after casting this ritual. As a result, the mystic's vitae thereafter has an unnatural darkened hue. This effect is purely cosmetic, though few sights are more disturbing than the ebon tears of a weeping Abyss mystic, save perhaps the horrors that make her weep.

Level Three Rituals

Drinking the Blood of Ahriman

By drawing the shadow essence of the Abyss into himself and fusing it with his blood, a mystic who knows this ritual may undergo a frightening transformation.

System: The mystic summons a Nocturne and cuts her palm with a knife that has never tasted blood. Chanting softly, the mystic flicks blood into the Nocrturne, drawing its hunger into her wound. The shadow melds into the palm, traveling through the veins to suffuse the vampire's entire form. This painful process takes half an hour. During this time the vampire is at -2 dice from the cold agony of the fusion. At the end of the ritual, the vampire's player rolls Manipulation + Occult (difficulty 8). Failure means the fusion is unsuccessful and the shadow escapes to the Abyss. A botch means that the shadow drinks one blood point per 1 rolled before departing. Success causes the vampire's skin to darken noticeably and her eyes to become the impossibly inky black of the Abyss. In this augmented state, all Physical Attributes lower than her Obtenebration rating rise to that level. All Obtenebration powers up to level three receive a -2 difficulty, and the blood cost to grow or expand an Arm of Ahriman is halved (rounded up). The void-augmented vampire must spend a number of blood points upon awakening each night equal to her Obtenebration rating. Failure to pay this surcharge immediately revokes the transformation. In addition, the vampire's shadowy form takes triple damage from sunlight and her Appearance drops by one dot while this ritual is in effect.

Side Effect: Once a vampire spends more consecutive days in spectral form than her highest Virtue, the darkening of her skin becomes parmanent. This resembles the darkening of an elder Assamite and grows more pronounced the more frequently the mystic casts and maintains this ritual.

Calling the Hungry Shade

Extending his mastery of the Abyss beyond The Heart That Beats in Silence, a mystic who knows this ritual may call forth an actual Hungry Shade into a circle of blood. Such entities are incalculably malicious and resent attempts to bind them into service. If they break free of the magic that enslaves them, they do not hesitate to drag the errant Cainite to the Abyss or tear him asunder on the spot.

System: A mystic may initiate this ritual any time between dusk and midnight. To begin, the vampire stands at the center of the intended summoning area and slits his left palm. He then turns counterclockwise in silence with a bloody hand outstretched to drip a circle of blood. Next he steps out of the circle, taking care to drip no more blood outside its edge. He then begins a whispered chant of invocation as he prowls around the circle in a spiral that winds slowly inward. Multiple Abyss mystics who know this ritual may assist and usually do, circling equilaterally apart from one another in synchronous steps. The total number of participating mystics cannot exceed the highest Occult rating in the group.

Make an extended Intelligence + Occult check (difficulty 6) for every mystic involved, rolling once per hour of chant. The Storyteller should privately keep track of the total number of successes amassed and permit players of the participant mystics to continue as long as they like until an hour before dawn. A botch from any mystic reduces the number of accumulated successes by five. When the mystics choose to resolve their processional litany, they stop and turn to face the center of the circle. Each speaks a syllable of summons in perfect unison and their players spend one point of Willpower. It is at this moment that the air tears asunder and a Hungry Shade rises in the blood circle.

Once the Hungry Shade is summoned, the player of the lead mystics makes an opposed roll of Willpower against the sum of the shade's two highest permanent traits other than Willpower (both rolls at difficulty 4). The vampire receives one extra die per assisting mystic. If the vampire wins, the shade must serve him faithfully in all endeavors for a number of nights equal to his Willpower. This duration may be extended by one night per point of fresh human or vampire blood immediately fed to the monster. It is not possible to increase the duration of servitude after the ritual ends, though it is believed that more powerful summoning rituals may exist for such purposes. If the shade wins the contest of wills, it may freely attack the mystics and usually does, though some have been known to flee the area and wreak havoc elsewhere or even return to the Abyss without incident. A freed shade may remain in the physical world as long as it desires, although it loses points of Willpower equal to its Obtenebration rating each dawn. If it runs out of Willpower, it can no longer bear separation from the Abyss and returns home through the cloest shadow.

Side Effect: None

Level Four Rituals

Reflections of Hollow Revelation

By gazing into the sphere of a conjured Nocturne, a mystic with this ritual may reach his senses into the orb to spy through a distant shadow. THis is among the more pragmatic powers of Abyss Mysticism, but it too exalts the void on the principle that all secrets do not lie in darkness, but all secrets lie through darkness.

System: The Cainite calls upon the Obtenebration power Nocturne and wills the globe to contract (this costs one Willpower point). The sphere shrinks to the size of a man's head and becomes tantalizing translucent, dimming everything seen through its murky depths. The vampire gazes into the orb and concentrates on a being or location he has previously seen. If the target is within a number of miles equal to the Vampire's Obtenebration + Occult and the vampire's player successfully rolls Perception + Occult (difficulty 7), the target appears in the Nocturne as seen through the shadow that has the best view of the scene. The vampire may continue to spy through this sensory portal for the rest of the scene or until the target leaves the vision of the shadow. Any vampire or supernatural being with Obtenebratioon, Auspex, or powers similar to either may sense the thickening shadow that spies upon them on a successful Perception + Occult roll (difficulty 8). Botching this ritual disperses the Nocturne and leaves the mystic confused for the rest of the scene (-2 to all dice pools). Failure releases the Nocturne to expand and act as normal.

Side Effect: A Cainite who sees and plots too far may not see the obvious. For the rest of the night following a successful casting of this ritual, the mystic loses two dice from all Alertness checks to notice events in her immediate presence.

Level Five Rituals

Whispers in the Dark

All enlightenment returns to the Abyss. The light of life and learning perishes with the death of flesh and soul and no tutelage can pass on wisdom in its entirety. But Ahriman remembers. Ahriman is all that is not, or was and is no more. In the primordial darkness lie echoes and whispers frozen in silent waiting for someone cunning enough to ask the right questions and daring enough to receive the answers.

System: The vampire conjures a Nocturne and forces it to contract as outlined for the ritual Reflections of Hollow Revelation. Rather than staring into the orb and viewing another place, the mystic swallows the darkness and so is swallowed by it. The vampire falls into immediate torpor as her consciousness merges with the Abyss. The vampire may ask one question of void, which may be as mundane or arcane as desired. The Storyteller assigns a rating for the question from 1 to 10 based on complexity and significance. Truly impossible or momentous questions may even surpass 10, rising as high as the Storyteller deems appropriate. The vampire's player rolls Intelligence + Occult (difficulty 9) at the conclusion of every night the mystic spends in torpid contemplation. Successes accumulate from night to night until they match the rating of the question and the vampire awakens knowing the answer. If the vampire fails to obtain any successes during a night, the interval between rolls increases to weeks. Further failure to obtain successes extends the interval to months, then years, decades, centuries, milennia, and perhaps onward to the end of time itself. A fable among Abyss mystics states that the first mystic, a beloved childe of the Eldest, asked the Abyss how he might slay God. It is said that he slumbers still in some forgotten tomb, dreaming the incomprehensible nightmares of that which preceded light.

Side Effect: A vampire who has successfully communed with the Abyss thereafter reduces the difficulty of all Intimidation rolls by one and adds one to the difficulty of all other Social rolls. These modifiers do not apply when interacting with other Abyss mystics. She also suffers the effects of the Flaw Nightmares. All who behold the mystic instictively know she bears the touch of something alien and inimical to the whole of creation.

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